With much at stake, U.S. treads warily in attempt to ease Iran-Saudi tensions

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration tread warily Monday around inflamed tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia that threaten several key U.S.

See Full Article

foreign policy objectives.

The White House said Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, while the official Saudi Press Agency reported that Kerry had spoken on Monday with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

U.S. officials said the administration is loath to insert itself into the row between Riyadh and Tehran but wants to ensure the viability of the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, nascent attempts to end Syria's civil war and the Iran nuclear deal.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest called on both countries to show restraint and avoid further inflaming sectarian tensions between Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shiite-ruled Iran. And he urged Saudi Arabia and Iran not to let the conflict derail fragile talks aimed at securing a cease-fire and a political transition to end the war in Syria.

"Hopefully they will continue to engage," Earnest said. "It is so clearly in the interests of both countries to advance a political solution to the situation inside of Syria."

Kerry is also planning to make a round of calls Monday to the foreign ministers of all the Sunni-led states in the Persian Gulf region, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, officials said. Bahrain followed Saudi Arabia's lead and severed diplomatic ties with Iran, while the UAE downgraded its diplomatic relations with it. In addition to Kerry, other senior U.S. diplomats were in close contact with Saudi and Arab officials over the weekend, according to the U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly to the delicate diplomacy.

The U.S. message to all is to urge calm and warn against overreaction that some fear could lead to a sectarian war, officials said.

Several officials said one of Washington's primary and most immediate concerns is the potential effect the spat could have on the fragile co-operation in Iraq between the Iraqi security forces, which answer to an Iran-friendly government, and Sunni and Shiite militias that are fighting Islamic State extremists. That co-operation has shown gains in recent weeks, notably with the Iraqi recapture of the provincial capital of Ramadi from the Islamic State group.

Officials were preparing for a high-level U.S. conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to stress the importance of continuing the Iraqi government's outreach to Sunni militias, the officials said.

Also of concern is the state of the Syrian peace effort, which is supposed to swing into high gear in late January with UN-sponsored negotiations between Saudi-backed opposition forces and the Iranian-supported government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. A U.S. official said Kerry had spoken on Sunday with the U.N special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to gauge any impact Saudi-Iranian developments might have on the planned Jan. 25 start of negotiations. There was no immediate indication that those talks would be disrupted, the official said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations said de Mistura will head to Saudi Arabia and Iran this week to try to ensure the talks go ahead.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said de Mistura "hopes that the adverse consequences of the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran do not affect the peace process with the Syrians."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Hamas says deal reached with Israel to restore calm in Gaza

    World News CBC News
    Hamas said on Saturday it had agreed to a truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip, a day after clashes killed an Israeli soldier and four Palestinians along the volatile border. The Israeli military declined to comment on the reported ceasefire. Source
  • Fraud case charges stayed because of judge shortage in Ontario Superior Court

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Five men accused in an alleged multimillion-dollar fraud scheme have had all charges against them stayed because of a shortage of judges in Ontario's Superior Court of Justice. Earlier this year, a judge attempting to set a trial date for the five accused said they could not come before the courts until at least January 2019. Source
  • Newly released video from Brazil shows man believed to be last of tribe

    World News CTV News
    SAO PAULO -- No one knows his name. No one knows the name of the people he came from. And he appears to have lived alone in Brazil's Amazon for 22 years. Video released for this first time this week by Brazil's Indian Foundation shows rare images of a so-called uncontacted indigenous man who is believed to be the last surviving member of his tribe. Source
  • Man charged with attempted murder of 5-year-old makes court appearance

    Canada News CTV News
    The 28-year-old man charged with the attempted murder of a 5-year-old Brampton, Ont. boy appeared in court on Friday. Dyon Smart has been remanded in custody and will make his next court appearance on July 25. Source
  • 'The Jay Z of St.-T': Rapper runs for mayor in St. Thomas, Ont.

    Canada News CTV News
    Three years ago, rap artist Malichi Male was driving to a gig in London, Ont. when he got lost. Male took a wrong turn and ended up in St. Thomas, a quiet community about 27 kilometres south of his destination. Source
  • MGM turns to never-tested law to sue Vegas shooting victims

    World News CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- The unprecedented move from MGM Resorts International to sue hundreds of victims of last year's mass shooting in Las Vegas using an obscure U.S. law never tested in court has been framed by the casino-operator as an effort to avoid years of costly litigation -- but the legal manoeuvr may not play out that way. Source
  • 4-year-old boy shoots, kills 2-year-old cousin in California: police

    World News CTV News
    SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Authorities say a 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old cousin at a home in Southern California. San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman says the shooting occurred Friday morning in the Muscoy area, east of Los Angeles. Source
  • Technical and stage workers locked out at Toronto's Exhibition Place

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Workers who provide technical and staging expertise for events in major venues at Toronto's Exhibition Place have been locked out. International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 58 says the lockout comes after months of negotiations for a new collective agreement. Source
  • Woman 'livid' after Air Canada allegedly failed to put mother’s remains on connecting flight

    Canada News CTV News
    A Brampton, Ont. woman says her mother’s remains spent days in an unrefrigerated Miami warehouse after Air Canada allegedly failed to transfer them to a connecting flight on time. “I’m livid,” Dion De Freitas told CTV Toronto. Source
  • U.S. making 'great progress' reuniting migrant families: judge

    World News CTV News
    SAN DIEGO -- A federal judge says the Trump administration is making "great progress" toward meeting a Thursday deadline to reunite more than 2,500 children with their families after they were separated at the border. Source